Tennis: Murray proves that new fathers can cut it

Andy Murray, on the clubhouse balcony, is the toast of British fans after taking his second Wimbledon title by beating Canadian Milos Raonic. The Scot says his great form is due to coach Ivan Lendl's return.
Andy Murray, on the clubhouse balcony, is the toast of British fans after taking his second Wimbledon title by beating Canadian Milos Raonic. The Scot says his great form is due to coach Ivan Lendl's return. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He follows Federer, Djokovic in winning slam title after kid's birth, says it spurs him further

LONDON • Rather than being distracted by the sleepless nights or the regular nappy-changing duties that have fallen his way, the arrival of baby daughter Sophia in February has breathed new life into Andy Murray's career.

Top tennis players used to once put off having families till their careers were in decline or over so that they did not lose focus. But on Sunday, the Scot joined the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by becoming the latest father to win a Grand Slam title when he beat Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-2) to capture a second Wimbledon title.

"Having a child has given me a little bit of extra motivation to work hard, train hard, and do all of the right things to give myself a chance to win these events," the 29-year-old Scot said after ending a three-year barren run at the slams.

"A lot of people have said, like, when Roger had kids, he started playing some of his best tennis. Novak, the same thing. But the reality is you still have to put the work in. You still have to have the drive and the dedication to train hard."

Following the birth of his son Stefan in October 2014, Djokovic turned into an indestructible force, winning five of the next seven grand slam titles.

LOSING'S FINE IF YOU LEARN

I've lost a lot of close ones against great players most of the time. I'm not afraid of failing. I'm learning from all of my losses.

ANDY MURRAY, who has a 3-6 record in grand slam finals.

That winning mentality also seems to have rubbed off on Murray, who said: "The last three months have been some of the best I've played in terms of consistency.

"I made the finals of the last five tournaments - here, Queen's, French Open, Madrid and Rome. I don't think I'd done that before in my career. The last few months have been some of the best in my career, for sure."

The reason he is able to put himself into these situations is because he no longer fears failure. Whereas in 2010 and 2011, his form and results went into free fall after he lost the Australian Open finals to Roger Federer and Djokovic respectively, he now knows how to compartmentalise these disappointments so that he is able to switch focus to the next target more quickly.

"I don't mind failing. Failing's okay, providing that you've given your best and put everything into it," said Murray, who was also beaten by Djokovic in January's Australian Open final.

"Failing's not terrible. I put myself in a position all of the time in these events to win them. I've lost a lot of close ones against great players most of the time. I'm not afraid of failing. I'm learning from all of my losses."

Crucially, he had coach Ivan Lendl returning to his side last month and the Scot, who has won all 12 of his matches since then, paid tribute to the contribution of the man who also oversaw his previous major victories.

"I do think he's a leader. I trust in what he says, mainly because of the results we had the last time we worked together. I've played my best tennis under him," he said.

When Murray first won the Wimbledon title in 2013, he became the first British male player in 77 years to do so.

"It is different," he said. "I feel happier this time. I feel more content. I feel like this was more for myself, and my team. We've all worked really hard to help get me in this position.

"Last time it was just pure relief, and I didn't really enjoy the moment as much, whereas I'm going to make sure I enjoy this one more than the others. I want to spend time with my family and closest friends, the people I work with. That's who I want to be around right now."

Meanwhile, Raonic insisted he had no regrets following his final defeat by Murray, and vowed he was "not going to leave any stone unturned" in his pursuit of a first Grand Slam title.

Despite failing in his bid to become the first Canadian to win a major title, as well as the first sixth seed to win Wimbledon since the German Michael Stich in 1991, he can look back with much pride at his efforts over the past two weeks, most notably that epic five-set win against Federer in the semi-finals.

"I'm going to try and get fitter, stronger, improve my return game, improve my serve. Improve my efficiency coming forward. There's not one thing that I'm not going to try to improve," he said.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Murray proves new fathers can cut it'. Print Edition | Subscribe